Yan Wai Kwong

Hong Kong, MSc Physiotherapy

“I have had three placements so far! I got an observational placement in a neurology rehabilitation in Oxford Centre for Enablement, I arranged one in Hong Kong where I've worked with a musculoskeletal clinic and at the John Radcliffe Hospital under the vascular team”

Why did you choose to study at Oxford Brookes University?

To be honest, it was the ranking! When I searched for it, I found out that it was in the top 10 among all those physiotherapy programmes in the UK so I didn't dare to apply for it because I didn't have a very relevant background and people tried to stop me. They used to tell me - don't send in an application because it's very challenging, very competitive, however, thank god that I didn’t listen and I put it all aside. By the end of June and July of that year, Donald, the Associate Dean of the Faculty, went to Hong Kong for a tour, and I arranged a meeting with him. After some conversations, he was happy to offer me a place at Brookes.

What would you say is your favourite thing about your course?

I enjoy every single bit of my course except the stressful bit of examinations and assignments. But the most enjoyable thing, I guess would be the placement, because it will give me a lot of different kinds of experience that I haven't tried when I was working or when I studied in Hong Kong. So the placement is fun, challenging and enjoyable!

Can tell me a bit more about your placement. Where was it? And what sort of things did you do?

I have had three placements so far. So, I got an observational placement in a neurology rehabilitation in Oxford Centre for Enablement where I worked with stroke patients or some brain injury patients to help them to recover from the injuries or stroke. After that one, because of COVID-19, I went back to Hong Kong and I arranged one in Hong Kong where I've worked with a musculoskeletal clinic with their patients where you can encounter different kinds of muscles or bone problems. And the recent one, it was working at the John Radcliffe Hospital under the vascular team where people may have some amputations or get some blood vessels fit through the surgeries so we help them to rehab and get them back home when we are sure they are safe and strong enough.

Where are you living at the moment?

I'm living in Headington, right next to the Headington campus. It is a property that is a one bedroom house and is managed by Oxford Brookes University, called Brookes Lettings. As an international student, I need to budget everything, so it is easier for me if I can rent a house from the Brookes Lettings because I can pay my rent monthly instead of paying the whole year's rent up front before you get the property or before you rent it. So it's easier for me to budget my money this way.

What do you think of the city of Oxford?

I like Oxford because it is a student town and it is a small town and you can access everything very quickly, so I can get to the park, which is just five minutes away, and then I can get groceries easily just down the road! In Oxford, you have a lot of good restaurants, good pubs, however, at this very moment, because of COVID restrictions, I can't get to any of them. However, after the lockdowns, we can have some fun.

Have you had enough support from the university during the COVID restrictions and the lockdown?

I'm glad that I'm quite supported by my department, the team always tries to check in on us from time to time. As I mentioned for my placement in Hong Kong, my lecturers contacted me before placement to explain to me how to prepare for the placement, and after that they kept checking on me and once the placement was done, they gave me a meeting to see how everything went, so that was a great way of showing support. For the social parts, because we are not allowed to see each other in person due to COVID restrictions, they tried to arrange a tea session every Tuesday so the lecturers can have some informal meetings and chat with us on Zoom.The physiotherapy society also arranged a Zoom meeting every now and then and some CPD (Continuing Professional Development) activities to give us a chance to see each other which is great.

Have you joined any societies at Oxford Brookes?

I became a member of the Physiotherapy society as long as I study the physiotherapy course and those activities are free, the committee will arrange those activities and promote them on social media, so every other person from the physiotherapy programme can join that, which is fantastic. Apart from that, I did join another society, the pole dancing society last year and I got some pole dancing classes every week. I have been dancing since I was three, and I wanted to pick up something new when I started here, so pole dance is challenging and a very different style of dancing, that's why I was like, yeah, why not give it a try?

When you first came to university, how did you find making friends and getting to know other people?

Making friends is never easy as an international student, but I'm lucky because although I'm the only Hong Kong student in my cohort, I get to speak English every day because no one's going to speak Cantonese with me! The cohort is small and we can get to know each other and you talk to all of them and work with all of them, so they are very supportive, nice and welcoming no matter if they’re international students or local students. My second way of knowing new people is from when I lived in student accommodation last year so my flatmates were from different parts of the world, some from the USA, some from Canada and local students; we always had dinner together, we cook together, we had long conversations on game night with each other, so it has not been difficult for me at all to make friends! As we always invite people to our flat, then through all those connections, we can meet even more friends!

How have you dealt with such diverse nationalities across the language, cultural differences?

In terms of the language, because I had an American flatmate and a British flatmate, they always have a discussion about English grammar or pronunciation in our kitchen. One day I still remember they talked about, “Do you say I go to hospital? Or I go to the hospital” The article just makes a lot of fun for us. If I have anything that I don't understand, in terms of language or English, I can get help from both of them! And also another funny moment is the pancake days. I didn't have that in Hong Kong, so that is a good way and a good chance for me to make different kinds of pancakes and share them among the flat. Then I think the lifestyle is kind of different from Hong Kong. It is more reliant on more balance between life and also work, so I think I picked up this lifestyle quite well so far!

How have you found the food locally?

I like food and I like cooking. And the most impressive food I got is from London instead of from Oxford. We can travel to London within 1 and a half hours by Oxford Tube, a local bus. So I went to the covered market and bought cinnamon buns and hot chocolate. It is a heavenly dessert!

Have you had a chance to get any sort of jobs or work around your placements?

Oh, yes, I'm a student ambassador as well! So I work with a lot of introduction days, interviews, and I try to get some interactions for those kinds of days, and then if they have any questions about student life, accommodation or even for the course, we can answer them by my own personal experience! At the same time, I also got a freelance job from a clinic nearby in Summertown, so I teach Pilates because I was a pilates instructor before when I was in Hong Kong, so I can still maintain some of my career and also interest here on top of my study!

How have you found the facilities at Oxford Brookes?

I was a member of the gym which is very close to the campus. They have everything you need to do a proper workout in the gym. I also heard that there's a swimming pool on the other campus, but I haven't had a chance to get there. Then, the library is great, they have great service, as I requested a lot of advice from the librarians because of my dissertation, and they did great. So far I like the campus and I like the facilities a lot!

What would be your top tips for other international students that are thinking about coming into the UK or coming to Oxford Brookes?

Just keep yourself open-minded, to accept the knowledge here and accept the culture, because it may be very different from what you're from. And then also have fun because it is always enjoyable to do something new and try something new.

Can you sum up your time at Oxford Brookes so far using just one word?

Would it be too much if I say it is a dream? I've been doing everything I can and getting all the friends, new friends and supportive lecturers. And I can have fun at the same time as working hard, so I have nothing to complain about...it is a dream!